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Arthur Arbesser’s great-great grandfather, Hermann von Koenigsbrunn, was an adventurous painter who, in the 1850s, traveled the world, embarking on long expeditions to Egypt, Sri Lanka, Greece. He was fascinated by nature, as shown by his delicate landscapes of verdant coastlines, mountains and forests. “He was really into fauna and plants—humans, not so much,” Arbesser explained.

Some of his great-great grandpa’s romantic paintings followed Arthur when he moved to Milan, and now they sit in his studio, a nicely furnished workshop where he held his fall presentation. “This season I decided to go with something that you grew up with, that has been around you all your life and is close to your heart,” he said. “These paintings reminded me of home, and I wanted to go back to this.”

His small crew of young assistants worked on turning details of the landscape paintings into allover prints: “Since there’s a sort of heavy Viennese-ness about them, we wanted something delicate to go against it,” he said. They hand-made new abstract graphics mixing tissue paper, glue and water. Using a tiny sponge they came up with a “spongy punky print.” Contrasting with von Koenigsbrunn’s rather solemn paintings, it looked spontaneous and joyous.

On the fashion front, Arbesser focused not only on patterns but on defining volumes and new shapes, while keeping the artsy, charming simplicity of his creations. Refined little drapes gave a twist to A-line slip-ons, or added cloud-like volume around the shoulders or at the front of aprons, juxtaposed on slender printed tunics. Arbesser’s love for everything plissé was visible in one of the collection’s standouts, a finely pleated long-sleeved top rendered in the handmade spongy-punk Harlequin motif; it looked delicate and theatrical.

Receiving guests in the intimacy of his studio was a clear indication that Arbesser wanted to “keep things small, keep things healthy, keep it joyful,” as he put it. He has worked with the same small team for years; he intends to keep his practice at a small scale because it’s the only way to preserve the spontaneous, artistic feeling that nurtures his creativity. Fashion for him isn’t about greed, rather it’s about doing beautiful things surrounded by like-minded people. “I’m not into ugly, sporty, comfy dresses. I’ve never been the edgy super-cool kid. I went intimate because the outside world as it is today wants you to go closer to who you are,” he reflected. “I think that the worst thing for a creative is hopping on someone else’s wagon."